He’s held a holster full of law enforcement positions, but right before Halloween, Joel Norred was promoted to one he considers his greatest honor.
At a surprise breakfast at the sheriff’s office Oct. 27, Sheriff A.J. Smith presented Norred a sheriff’s badge, albeit honorary, in a board room full of the many people with whom he has worked closely in Franklin County leading up to his retirement a decade ago.
Norred was in fine spirits, beaming a smile across his fleshy pink cheeks. Which is important to note given that he’s been gaining the upper hand in a fight with esophageal cancer that a couple years ago some doctors said wouldn’t last much past the first couple rounds.
He and his wife Susan now make regular visits to Gainesville, where they both once had law enforcement careers, for regular chemotherapy treatments.
Norred said “he has his days” these days, and said that while he might meet the requirements to earn the shooting certification required every two years, “as much as I shake, I don’t know if I’d hit the target.”
His colleagues shared memories of working with Norred, ever since he completed his many years with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and returned home.
He had been hired by Sheriff Jack Taylor in 1969, completed his training commuting to Tallahassee Community College and then in 1973 joined a protection team for the governor, beginning with Claude Kirk.
He worked for FDLE in cities from Jacksonville to Gainesville to Tampa and to Miami, and then retired in 2003 and returned to the county, where in 2009 he served as undersheriff to Sheriff Skip Shiver before hanging up his gun in 2013 to embark on semi-retirement perfecting BBQ with his Pogy Road Porkers team.
Many assembled around the table said their initial impression of Norred was that he was sorta mean and you didn’t look forward to him knocking on your office door.
“It took us awhile to warm up but he gained a lot of respect,” said Capt. Brad Segree. “We knew he was going to always have our back.”
Ginger Coulter said she was initially intimidated, but came to discover Norred was really “a gentle giant. I grew to love and respect you; you were one of my favorite people who I’ve worked with.”
Norred took their ribbing in stride, giving as good as he got, before settling into seriousness.
“I gained a lot of friendships here,” he said. “I probably looked mean all the time.
“You are all a great team. You’re all doing a super, super job. All of you guys have the same mentality and this is a special place. You’re making a difference around here.”